Go Commander Slowe, go
Frankly Speaking By A.A. Fenty

Stabroek News
July 23, 2004

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Greetings to all my fans and foes again today. I am making two assumptions - based on fairly reliable "sources" within the Guyana Police Force - as I communicate, publicly, my views to Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe. Officer Slowe has returned to the capital city from Berbice to be the Force's Commander of "A" Division which, of course, includes Georgetown and its environs.

I'm writing to Commander Slowe because I have retained a healthy respect for his professionalism as a police officer and moreso for his so far unimpeachable integrity. (Notice how no detractor - on either side of our well-known "divides" - has uttered any derogatory imputation about corruption or malpractice involving Mr Slowe? Or, yes, the "new" Commissioner Felix himself?) Even those who, for a post-1997 period, had decided that the Marksman/Leader-by-example Slowe was "not with them" have never dared accuse him of any unsavoury practice. So far.

Now, my first assumption is that Commander Slowe has some significant thing to do with the current campaign to have proprietors of entertainment centres observe the law regarding the playing of music and noisy instruments. And the other assumption is that any such (laudable) exercise must have been planned in conjunction with Commissioner Felix and all the other commanders and strategists in the hierarchy of the force. Against those assumptions and background then, I use this quite public medium to share these thoughts, many re-cycled, with you, commander.

Campaigns versus sustainability

"Commander, I'm confident that you appreciate that this concept and practice of periodic campaigns will not capture and maintain the full co-operation and respect of the public, if it is not sustained with some longevity and permanence. In other words, any worthy campaign must be made continuous, permanent. Occasional and habitual perpetrators and law-breakers must know that your enforcement will not go away, will not be any one-shot temporary exercise. Incidentally, may I suggest that you - and your superiors - use all methods to educate the public just why a specific enforcement "campaign" is in their interest and the interest of the wider community? Even as any such exercise is being executed.

So as I register this column's whole-hearted support for your justified assault against the late-night noisemakers, I urge you to be relentless too against the minibuses, mobile music carts, sound systems in residential neighbourhoods, those "amplified" churches, etc.

I suspect too Sir, that when you operated under the charismatic commissioner Laurie Lewis, you regretted that he could not fulfil adequately his desire and boast regarding zero tolerance - in terms of the most minor offences committed by citizens. You knew you all had neither that man-power or all-agencies support to exercise that most worthy policy.

For I put it to you commander, zero-tolerance is actually the answer to our now cancerous, deep-rooted disrespect for all laws. In Guyana today when the lawless, the rich, the ignorant, the upstart or the career crimina, knows that they can ride without lights or bells they don't have to stop at identifiable bus stops, taxi terminals can appear anywhere, CBR motor-cyclists ignore helmets, and the law against tinted windows is laughed at, these smaller, everyday, routine infringements lead to longer violations later.

I am aware, Commander, that no man is an island. You can't do it all, on your own. But so confident am I, in you, I share, I repeat the under-mentioned.

The guns, the mini-buses

Again I ask Mr. Slowe, what on earth could be done to get the guns - and the knives and noxious substances - off the streets? Out of the waists and pouches of young men? Is it beyond us to try innovative approaches - with the help of people living by the borders, in the villages, in the ghettoes? Whether amnesties or buybacks, sudden searches and raids at cinemas, night-clubs, big "concerts" or sound-system sessions, anywhere, I am prepared to sacrifice some rights and freedoms in the pursuits of getting the guns out of peaceful society. Come up with something commander. Let the others follow.

And please promote my personal proposal: when a loaded mini-bus is found speeding or overloaded penalise all in the bus! Let not two operators intimidate a whole 'bus. Adjust and enforce that law and you'll see speedy change, commander. I remember the press photograph of you with a tintometer measuring the level of the tint on windows, when you were traffic chief. Return to the regulations regarding tints and crash helmets, sir.

Two other suggestions...

Even as I wonder what you advise your detectives in Georgetown about the integrity of crime scenes and I guess that much of this problem lies with the public, I offer you personally just two of about twenty suggestions to take to your strategy team.

Student monitor squad or patrol: In conjunction with the relevant Education Ministry Unit, establish a male/female patrol which will move along Croal Street in the capital after school ends; through certain city wards, by night-spots and markets, to ensure that students do not loiter or behave disorderly. Be daily about it too. Video cameras: Even as you encourage the use of close-circuit television monitors in homes and business places, I suggest you have trained CID ranks use video cameras pre-emptively - where trouble-makers gather, at popular liming spots, at crime scenes; along streets where vehicles speed.

I know you can be different Commander. With a soul-mate commissioner against crime and evil, I know you can dare to be.

'By for now, personally

So until next time commander. But not before I misuse this well-read feature to do two things obliquely related to all of the above.

Firstly, I lament the fact that despite my best efforts and with some encouragement from your Home Affairs Ministry, I never really succeeded in executing some useful ideas and potentially-effective strategies to influence police-community relations positively. You know, education about offences, crime prevention advisories, community out-reach exercises, anti-kidnap advice etc.

Secondly, Commander, at the very real risk of being herein unethical, I personalise an offer now to assist you however you might wish in the fight against (urban) crime. Even without pay. I'm sure others would join me. Until!

So long...

1) Farewell Pat Legall. I saw you and Cammie Smith at Bourda, as a youth. As an adult, it was at the GPSU Club - with the Yoruba Singers.

2) What's this? It can't, won't be avoided? Using the Highway, Stadium and World Cup achievements as political points during elections? Who wouldn't? It's just how it's done.

3) Are you over 45? Then I'll see you at the four reggae legends show on Saturday evening.

4) Catch then on the CNS Guyana Cook-up Show of Friday/Saturday (tomorrow).

'Til next week!